Wednesday, January 4, 2012


Election night was as much fun as Christmas morning. I was always amped up by the prospect of our hours long unscripted coverage, both on radio and for many years on TV. I'm a political junkie, as you might expect after decades of journalism covering campaigns for school boards to the White House. So, with that as prelude--
We don't need more. It seems wall to wall now, but
the focus is almost exclusively on the horse race.
Oh, we have marvelous polls and data sets and awe inspiring graphic displays, but somehow it misses the point.
Ultimately the voter will decide, regardless of how
pollsters handicap or predicatively prophesize.
Don't you think we need better analysis of how
these candidates will behave as Chief Executive and
Commander in Chief?  I'd rather know how they
propose to handle the latest Iranian saber rattling and what will they do, specifically, rather than how much money
they've raised, and what their strategy is to win New Hampshire.
We have a disconnect.  There is the business, and a sleazy one it is, of getting elected.  Then there is governance.
Our media attention is almost exclusively on the  business of
campaigning, which is an important story, but not as
important as understanding who these people are.
What about their personality and beliefs?  How might they affect political decisions?  What is their competence in 
dealing with the Joint Chiefs of Staff?  How much do they know about the American Intelligence Community?
What do they really know of American history?
What do they know of previous Presidents?
Do they understand how government bureaus operate, or Weber's laws of bureaucracy?  How effective are they at managing?  Can they manage a budget?  Do they know how to hold people accountable?
 Can they, measure outcomes or articulate a vision? How do they make decisions? What experience do they have at 
working with varied special interests? Etc, etc.
I'd much rather see a few months of microscopic 
examination of character, decision making, experience, 
personality, philosophy, than canned sound bites
in predictable debate scenarios where everyone, even the panel is playing to the camera, or reportage about 
the horse race that has all the hype and speculation
of a Super Bowl lead up.
Maybe the current crop of reporters have seen too much
American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.
Oh how I miss Tom Petit, Herb Kaplow, Douglas Kiker, David Brinkley, Walter Cronkite,  Bob Clark, John Chancellor, Marvin Kalb, Cassie Mackin, Dan Rather, Lynn Sherr, David Broder, Tom Wicker, Joseph Alsop, Johnny Apple, Richard Reeves, Walter Mears, Adam Clymer, I.F. Stone, Scotty Reston, Bill Bradley, etc, etc, etc. 
This series captures the texture and
magic of watching the sun dance behind
a tree in wine country.

My English uncle told me, when a boy, this is 
the time of evening of myths, legends, visions,
dreams, fairies and goblins.
See you down the trail.


  1. I remember meeting Doug Kiker at the bar in the Haymarket lounge of the Chicago Conrad Hilton during the '68 Demo convention. He said the violence he'd seen between cops and demonstrators was worse than anything he'd seen in covering civil rights marches in the South.

  2. Your uncle was right about this mysterious time of day. I think they call it the gloaming.

  3. Having lived and worked in Iowa in 1980 and 1984 (KIOA and WHO) during the caucuses, I had the opportunity to cover them as an ojective newsgathering witness to the proceedings in a couple of small town party meetings (Indianola and Boone, with remote broadcasts). The caucuses (as well as the New Hampshire primary) while seen as irrelevant by people in other states, are important because 1.) the really serious candidates set up their local organizations down to the precinct level; and 2.) the candidates are available on a one-to-one basis with precinct workers, committeepersons and convention delegates. Believe me, the type of questions you want asked are asked by these engaged citizens and the candidates are grilled. Romney learned from 2008, while Santorium did it the hard way, going to every one of Iowa's 99 counties. Iowa geographically is a small state, but to cover it (and I know from my year at WHO Radio) county-by-county is a task that very few politicians would undertake (unless you are an Iowa politician). Peace.

  4. Bruce-I too first met Kiker at a Bar---at a national governor's conference. He was a fun guy to be with, in addition to being a great political reporter.
    Funny how we all spent so much time in bars.

    Stephen-I really like the word gloaming. It is unlike any other.

    Jed-that kind of citizen inquiry makes more sense than a lot of what
    passes for political journalism. Thanks also for sharing the insight
    about the reality of the Iowa caucus.